Posted on 24 November 2020
Restrictions on public gatherings are soon to relax in the UK with a return to the tier system, and whether you live in the UK or elsewhere, you may be thinking about meeting up with family and friends over Christmas. But even if your region allows public gatherings, how can you judge whether it is safe to hold or attend such an event? Looking at case numbers could give you a general idea of the prevalence of COVID-19 infections in your area, but how well do these numbers actually translate into your risk of meeting someone who is infected?
A team at Georgia Tech in the US have created a tool that can help answer that question. The COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool allows residents in the United States and some European countries to input the size of the gathering they plan on having. The tool will then give a breakdown by county of the estimated risk that at least one person in that gathering will be infected.
Taking the example of Oxfordshire, the tool estimates at the time of writing (24th November) that a gathering of 10 people would carry an 8% risk – a roughly 1 in 12 chance of at least one person having COVID-19. That might seem rather high given that Oxfordshire’s weekly rate of new confirmed cases currently stands at 167.6 per 100,000 residents. However, the tool takes into account the fact that not all people with COVID-19 get tested. In fact, it assumes that real case numbers are roughly 5 times the official number of confirmed cases.
It’s worth highlighting that the tool calculates the risk of at least one guest having COVID-19, and not the risk of transmission. It is still possible to minimise your risk of infection by holding gatherings outdoors, observing proper social distancing, hygiene measures and so on.